Defending champion P V Sindhu's poor run of form continued as she lost to Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in her campaign opener at the year-ending BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, on Wednesday.
She squandered an 11-6 lead in the second game before going down 18-21, 21-18, 21-8 in 68 minutes to former world number one Akane Yamaguchi, who scripted a sensational comeback after losing the first game to claim her third successive win over the Indian.
The 24-year-old Sindhu came into the match with a healthy 10-6 head-to-head record against Yamaguchi, but had lost to the Japanese in the last two meetings this year.
The world No. 6 Sindhu will next face China's Chen Yu Fei in her second Group A match on Thursday. The Indian enjoys a 6-3 record but the Chinese has been in rampaging form this season, having won all six of her finals, including the All England Championships.
Sindhu seemed in control in the first half of the match but Yamaguchi’s athleticism and accuracy proved decisive.
Sindhu was erratic initially and missed the lines a couple of times as she trailed befoee drawing parity at 5-5 when Yamaguchi made some unforced errors. Scores ran neck and next before Sindhu grabbed a healthy three-point lead at the interval with a straight smash.
Sindhu put herself six points ahead at 17-11 but Yamaguchi managed to make it 18-20. Sindhu, however, pocketed the first game with a cross-court return.
The duo played some eye-catching rallies in the second game too, moving 5-5 before Sindhu took a 8-5 lead.
The Indian continued to dominate the proceedings and established a 11-6 lead before Yamaguchi upped the tempo after the break.
Sindhu led 15-12 but the Japanese fought back to level at 15 with a smash.
With her straight fifth point, Yamaguchi turned the tables and grabbed a 16-15 lead. Sindhu regained control in time after winning another thrilling rally, making it 18-16. Yamaguchi again clawed back at a 18-18 and took a crucial 19-18 lead when Sindhu found the net.
A body smash gave the Japanese two game points and she won the next to take the match into the decider.
In the third game, Yamaguchi maintained the momentum, reeling off five straight points to make a sizzling start. Sindhu tried to break the rhythm but the Japanese was unstoppable as she moved to a huge 11-3 lead at the interval.
Yamaguchi zoomed to a 16-4 lead before Sindhu grabbed three points, but her series of unforced errors continued.